Saving myself, so i may yet save the world

Vweta
Posted November 26, 2018 from United Kingdom

When I left my home one cold morning a month ago, I had no idea I will not know when I could return.

My alarm woke me at four on the morning of 25th October. I had 30minutes to get ready and 15minutes to walk to the coach station where i'll board a bus to London. I had packed just what I needed for the three days I will be away. I took one final look around, locked the door and began the cold quiet walk to what seemed like my future.

There was a gusto to my footfall as my knee high flat boots hit the pavement. Though still recovering from a surgery from only a week prior, the elation at finally getting a date for a planned procedure i've been waiting for, for months was enough to dull the soreness in my throat and the tiredness in my bones. I was ready. I had also made sure to make plans for when I returned: a two days trip to the Brecon Beacons, training and resumption of volunteering with two local charities, get on with work commitments and deadlines. This long list of to-do was on the homescreen of my computer and phone - a constant reminder of what I had to do. 'Rest' was not on the list.

I arrived on schedule and went ahead to have tests and scans done, in preparation for surgery the next day.

I woke up feeling like I always do after surgery, teeth clattering cold, groggy, sore. When the surgeon came by, I was aware enough to understand what he said, the procedure was aborted because it would've been risky to proceed. At the end of our conversation, two things were clear and some others weren't. Firstly, I would need a repeat of the surgery I had the week prior, secondly, I would need more surgeries than initially thought. The unknowns were: how long will this take? Do I have to be in hospital for the length of my treatment? Will this treatment, in whatever form it takes, be definitive?

I remember not knowing what to do about my to-do list as the implication of the conversation settled in. And, been filled with dread at the thought of cancelling appointments and not meeting deadlines. The thought of disappointing colleagues and somehow not performing because I am sicker than I previously knew filled me with dread.

The first person on my 'to reach list' was Jill, and it's no surprise, we connected on World Pulse. Jill, another World Pulse sister, Frankie and I are working on a project that would empower women and their local communities in Cameroon. If anyone would understand, it was Jill. I recall been apologetic and telling her I'd understand if she didn’t want me in on the project anymore, I'd rather extricate myself than stall things, I said. She was not only supportive of my situation, but her words jolted me back to sanity, I needed to prioritise getting well. Put simply, I need to practise selfcare. Her words and support gave me permission to be with this, this news I had just received, this terrible chaotic time in my life.

I've been working with a great therapist for a few months now. At our last session over a month ago, I talked about all the things I managed to pack into my week. We had a moment where what seemed like admiration passed between us, and, as if on cue, we both said 'but that is not self care.' And it wasn’t. I haven't been kind to my body, I went about my work after major surgeries as though I just had Botox injections, I kept pushing myself even when it was evident I needed to stop or slow down, I needed a break, my body needed to rest.

Until 2003, I only had to 'prove' myself academically and in sports, this changed in 2004 when, after several botched surgeries, I acquired a disability, one I still live with. I was a 16 year old girl living in a society that puts enormous pressure on the woman - to be well, to be strong, to be a homemaker, to be selfless, and discriminated against disabled people, even more so, disabled women. There was no room for 'weakness', for disabled women, there was no room for me.

The need to perform, to prove my weight in gold is inextricably linked to my gender, my disability and societal expectations - many of which I had internalised. Growing up in a society where disabled people excelling is the exception rather than the norm put immense pressure on me. I lost not just my voice but my identity when I acquired the disability. Medical Anthropologist, Mary Wickenden's words "If you cannot talk, it may be hard to prove that you think…" sums up most part of my experience. I needed to prove to myself and the world that I was no invalid.

And so began this never ending quest to prove myself, to prove that I could still do everything, and then some, inspite of my limitations, often to the detriment of my physical and mental health.

This need to prove was also fuelled by the desire to express gratitude to my family for seeking out the best treatments money could buy. Of course, they in no way made me feel like I owed them, but I felt I owed it to them to be a high achiever, so they'd know their 'investments' wasn’t in vain.

With hindsight, I realise that my best show of gratitude would have been to practice more selfcare, not only would I have had more good days but my health would have been better for it.

The first time my body forced me to prioritise It was early last year. I was so poorly I could barely function, still, I couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop. This was despite the fact my work involved encouraging the rural women to not be ashamed to take a break even when they think they don’t need it or ask for help when they may be struggling, a sermon I clearly didn’t practice. When I think back to the conversation I had with the surgeon, I am amazed at how skewed my priorities were then. The thought of disappointing others due to unexpected turn of events was what I found most difficult about my situation.

It's been a month since that morning I left home, I am still in hospital, unsure of when I will be returning. I've had a lot of time to think about the early warning signs my body's been sending out for years, and I've thought about how I could have been more responsible.

I won't pretend I've got it all figured out because I don’t. But I can tell you I've listened more to my body these past weeks than I did in 14 years. As I refamiliarise myself with my body and her needs, I realise how fortunate I am that my situation is not completely bleak, though sometimes, it feels as though my body has been stretched beyond its limits and can never quite comeback. There are times I almost forget what this is about - feeling pressured to post on my website daily, keeping work hours in my hospital room because I've got my iPad and free wifi - then I remember and ask my body for forgiveness.

I've thought back to my conversation with Jill a lot. If she wasn’t as supportive, the penny may never have dropped for me. Our conversation bolstered me as I sent out emails cancelling meetings, explaining the change in my circumstances.

Slowly, am learning to build my life around my needs, prioritise my physical recovery as well as mental wellbeing, let go of the need to please, to perform, to prove myself, to be seen to achieve great feats inspite of. I am learning to say no, to keep my phone away, to not come to the phone during 'me times'. I am accepting that my presence is present enough, and that its ok not to show up too. I now know my body matters, I matter and being disabled bears no shame or guilt.

I am finally heeding the warning flight crew give before liftoff: wear your oxygen mask before attempting to help another person with theirs. In my words, I am saving myself so I may yet save the world.  

This story was submitted in response to Caring for Ourselves.

Comments 16

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Tamarack Verrall
Nov 26, 2018
Nov 26, 2018

Dear Vweta,

I am so glad for news of how you are, and to know that you are heeding this all important message - Self Care. I am sure that this story will touch so many WorldPulse Sisters, as it did me..."a sermon I clearly didn’t practice"..." wear your oxygen mask before attempting to help another person with theirs"..."I am accepting that my presence is present enough". We care so deeply, we want change now, we look to who needs change the most with all the energy we have to spare. But this work is an enormous task, and we expect so much from ourselves. Just reading the schedule you had set for yourself so soon after new surgery made my head spin. Your message is powerful. It is ok to rest. We now have each other, many thousands of us working together. I celebrate you taking good care of your dear and precious self. And I thank you for the important reminder.

Sending love and hope for future successful surgery,
Tam

Beth Lacey
Nov 26, 2018
Nov 26, 2018

You are a strong woman and Jill is a treasure.
Beth

Jill Langhus
Nov 27, 2018
Nov 27, 2018

Thank you, Beth, for the compliment:-)

Lisbeth
Nov 26, 2018
Nov 26, 2018

Hi dear,
Thanks for sharing your story with us once again, and I wish the best with your submission.

Its a captivating story. I agreed that measures must be put in place to care for ourselves in this stressful world, else we loss our value.

Kind greetings
Lizzy

Olutosin
Nov 26, 2018
Nov 26, 2018

Welldone sister mi, pele. The lord is your strength , Amen
You are such a brave young woman.

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 27, 2018
Nov 27, 2018

Dear VWeta,
It is so good to hear from you again. I have actually thought you have been very scarce and I though work must have gotten really busy. Sorry about your health ordeal and glad you are gradually on the mend.
You are strong, you will get through this because just being you is enough.
Thank you too to Jill for coming through for you when you needed it most.

Godspeed and hugs and Love from Cameroon
Arrey

Jill Langhus
Nov 27, 2018
Nov 27, 2018

Thanks, Arrey:-) I'm glad I was able to help Vweta.

Theresa Takafuma
Nov 27, 2018
Nov 27, 2018

Dear Vweta
Your story is one of courage and the ability as well as the resilience to get up when one falls. Proud of you sister.

Lots of love

Theresa

Jill Langhus
Nov 27, 2018
Nov 27, 2018

Hello dear Vweta,

I do hope you feel better soon... I'm glad that I was able to help you to prioritize your beautiful body and its needs. I have to admit that I was in shock that you were even thinking about me and our project when you clearly weren't well. I'm honored that I was at the top of your list, btw:-) I'm sure you have many priorities.

I hope also that you will be able to forgive yourself for pushing yourself too hard, and for any shortcomings that you feel that you have that have contributed to the state you are in now. It sounds like you are too hard on yourself, dear. Please love honor, accept and approve of yourself so you aren't pushing yourself too hard. Our bodies are very wise. When we don't listen they will always increase the intensity of their messages.

Now, having said all that... thanks for contributing an excellent story for the story awards, dear. Good luck with your submission...

leila Kigha
Nov 28, 2018
Nov 28, 2018

Am so glad to read from you again my power house.
i know you are a strong woman. your story just corroborates that.
Am glad to know you are prioritizing self care and walking your way to a stronger and most excellent version of you.
i look forward to seeing you stronger than ever!
keeping you in Prayers.
P.S Thank you Jill for being such a great support.

Jill Langhus
Nov 28, 2018
Nov 28, 2018

You're welcome, dear:-)

Adanna
Nov 28, 2018
Nov 28, 2018

Dear Vweta,

Nice one! You are a strong woman.

Cheers,
Adanna

SanPatagonia
Dec 09, 2018
Dec 09, 2018

Dear Vweta... such a powerful testimony, a loud and brave voice...
I'm really happy you had your Jill, as many of us have ours, to remember what comes first in caring for others - caring for ourselves. Respect our bodies, our times and cycles, our need to stop and check if everything is strong to keep on trying new transformations out there.
Society indeed puts a lot of pressure on us, women, as we keep all the balls in the air no matter what... and yet, if we miss one, condemns harshly but never as deeply as ourselves.
I read your "I ask my body for forgiveness" and I rememberd myself lying on a hospital bed a year ago, just unable to walk or -for hours- cling to life, just because I didn't stop on time. We are blessed... you are blessed... and I hope you find a wiser way -a wise voices, as you have around- to be all what you're meant to be.
Stay strong, sister!
San

Sister VWeta,
This post touched me, I am sending positive energy your way for healing, health and wellness and restoration. Thank you for this powerful message to women, too often we lose ourselves in the busyness called life. We forget about ourselves, thank you for reminding me about self-care.

Nakinti
Feb 06
Feb 06

Dear Vweta,
I am happy to read from you again, after a long while. Your writing inspires me in many ways but one. You have always been the strong Vweta that I know, and I have missed you for a while. But hey, girl, self care is very important and I am happy you are taking that seriously, now. I wish you a speedy recovery and more wisdom in respecting self care more than ever before.
Sending healing mercies your way, dear sister.
Love
Nakinti

Rahmana Karuna
Feb 13
Feb 13

VWETA, good morning, just reading your story here. time has moved on. it has been another 2 1/2 months and i hope you are doing well, i will go look to see if you have updated, or maybe still taking care of yourself. a yes to me can be a no to others a yes to others may be a no to me.
it is never too late for self care awareness!! too bad that is not a priority in primary or any school really. thru role modeling. It took me years to come to the same conclusion and years to undo and re create my life.
every moment is a brand new moment like every day is a brand new day to begin the rest of our life the way we choose. love and hugs